Monday, May 21, 2012

Book Review: Burn Mark

Title: Burn Mark
Author: Laura Powell
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Pub. Date: June 19, 2012
ISBN: 9781599908434

If I wrote reviews in the form of Monopoly cards, Burn Mark would get "Advance to Go: Collect $200." It's that awesome. I could stop here, really. You could click away now to pre-order a copy and start counting down the days until June 19. But then I wouldn't get to write about Burn Mark, and I'm bubbling over with things I want to share about this novel.

First, the publisher's summary:
"In a modern world-where witches are hunted down and burned at the stake-two live interact. Glory is from a family of witches, and is desperate to develop the 'Fae' and become a witch herself. Lucas is the son of the Chief Prosecutor for the Inquisition and his privileged life is very different from the witches he is being trained to prosecute. And then one day, both Glory and Lucas develop the Fae. In one fell stroke, their lives are inextricably bound together, whether they like it or not."

In this alternate reality, the classicism of English society is alive and well. Witches are the impure underclass, and non-Fae families such as Lucas Stearne's rule the country. The novel initially focuses on Lucas' world of privilege, giving enough context to measure just how much Lucas loses by becoming Fae. Our immersion in Lucas' life heightens the shock of entering Glory Wilde's world. As part of a family coven that desperately clings to memories of its long gone heyday of power, Glory lives in the Fae area of London, surrounded by poverty and sexism, with few options for her future.

After several twists and turns, Glory and Lucas reluctantly collaborate in a mission to stop a new anti-Fae uprising. Thankfully, there is no "instalove" in this novel. Their friendship is slow to develop, and seems to have the potential to be something more. But their allegiances to their very different worlds run deep. Glory and Lucas are too busy and conflicted to get sidetracked into the obligatory romance. While I love YA romantic relationships, and even the controversial love triangle, it was refreshing to read a novel in which the main characters can interact without falling in love.

Burn Mark is reminiscent of Holly Black's Curseworkers series. Both are set in a modern alternate reality in which supernatural powers and their possessors are controversial, in which gangs and the government dual for supremacy in a battle where each side has equal faults and virtues. But Powell delves more deeply and satisfyingly into the structure of the society Lucas and Glory live in, thoroughly examining both the witch gangs and the government entities designed to suppress the Fae. In the end, both Lucas and Glory realize their worlds are much more similar than they are different. But this realization does not simplify anything.

Lucas and Glory come to terms with being witches, but their futures are complicated and will be difficult to navigate. While I don't know if Burn Mark is the beginning of a series, it stands alone beautifully as the story of the beginning of Lucas and Glory's passages to adulthood. However, I can't imagine it's not the beginning of a series, as Powell has set in motion so many questions and possibilities in a fascinating world that the reader wants to explore further.

As an added bonus to the well rendered universe and compelling plot of Burn Mark, Powell's prose is gorgeous. The character development is masterful as well. Even the depiction of a minor character such as Glory's dad deepens the reader's understanding of the life of the fae through a handful of short but poignant scenes.

I stopped reading early one night because I wanted to prolong the experience another day, which in my rubric is an even higher mark than finishing the book in one sitting. But whether you devour it all in one day or at your leisure, move Burn Mark to the top of your summer to-be-read pile.


  1. Oh that's a great review. It's the next book on my list, I go an ARC to review too. I have it all fired up on my kindle and hope to start reading soon. Now I really can't wait.

    1. Thanks Eve!! I'm actually a little jealous that you're about to read it for the first time. I've got my fingers crossed that there will be more, but even if there is, I'll be playing the waiting game!